Catch-up TV reviews: Beowulf, Lip Sync Battle UK, From Dusk Till Dawn, Walter Presents
James R | On 10, Jan 2016
We catch up with some of the week’s TV on free catch-up services. For BBC shows, see our weekly Best of BBC iPlayer column.
Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands (ITV Hub)
Oh dear. ITV’s latest attempt to forge a rollicking adventure for its Sunday night schedule is unthinkably naff – in that it’s best not to think while watching it, in case you notice how dreadful it all is. The original Old English poem is a short, but grand number, which tells a thrillingly simple tale (word to Grendel’s mum, y’all). Today, though, audiences expect a multi-episode, multi-season fantasy, with HBO-like scale and Lord of the Rings-worthy special effects. Even with a reported £17 million budget, though, ITV’s attempt at epic falls woefully short. It might as well be acted out with sock puppets.
The tale is stretched out and stuffed with additional subplots – an inevitable step to making this suitable for modern viewers. But the problem is that none of it works. The political tensions feel like amateur soap operatics, the CGI is just short of the level required to not distract you from the plot and Grendel’s appearance only brings to mind Gollum. Being derivative isn’t necessarily bad, if it’s done well, but despite the impressive location work, the script clunks with almost every syllable – it’s only 25 minutes until we see someone crouched over their father crying “I will avenge you!”
The characters are just as shallow: the introduction of a cheeky doctor (Laura Donnelly) as a love interest is boringly cliched, while Kieran Bew’s hero is blander than stale Weetabix. The result is an embarrassing misstep that pales in comparison to even the latest poster for the George RR Martin saga this so desperately wants to be. If the Game of Thrones knock-off theme tune doesn’t make you tune out, the rest of it soon will.
Available until: 2nd February (Episode 1)
Lip Sync Battle UK (My5)
Yes, we live in an age where the words “lip sync battle” are considered a form of prime entertainment. How did that happen? Blame Jimmy Fallon, who introduced the idea as a slot for guests on his late night US talk show – a canny way to not only give celebrities something silly to do for his audience, but also produce content for his YouTube channel that regularly goes viral.
Now, everyone’s at it, with a standalone Lip Sync Battle show launched by US channel Spike, with Anne Hathaway doing Wrecking Ball and, most recently, Channing Tatum doing Run the World – complete with Beyoncé cameo. It’s inevitable, then, that the UK should get its own version, with Channel 5 snapping up the rights. The US, though, has set a tough act to follow: Britain’s answer to Channing and Beyoncé? The first episode gives us a showdown of Britain’s Got Talent judges with David Walliams and Alesha Dixon taking on Adele and Taylor Swift. Next week: Jason Manford and Michelle Keegan.
The sight of people miming (either badly or well) to pop tracks remains bizarrely compelling and, in the case of Walliams’ Hello, a genuinely funny spectacle, but part of the original’s success stems from its star wattage: half of the fun is being surprised by who’s willing to make themselves look ridiculous. The question, then, is whether this British karaoke spin-off can keep serving up the celebs. For now, Walliams has notched up 64,271 views on YouTube. Tatum’s Let It Go? 12.9 million.
Available until: 12th February (Episode 1)
From Dusk Till Dawn (My5)
While US TV Spike’s lip synching contest goes international, Spike’s own UK arm (a sister channel to Channel 5) imports From Dusk Till Dawn series, which was originally released as a Netflix original in the UK.
The series retells the story from the film, following the Gecko brothers as they escape from a bank heist with $30 million and head for the border. In the pilot, the Geckos stop off at a liquor store, which is then visited by two Texas rangers. If you’ve seen the film, you know what happens. If you’re going into this blind, prepare for an intense standoff.
No prior knowledge of the movie is required, but fans will know it’s practically split into two halves: heist and vampire slaying. Those looking for lots of fangs will therefore be left disappointed, but if you’re willing to invest time in this series, it does show signs of promise, with high production values.
Available until: 3rd February (Episode 1)
Walter Presents: Spin (All 4)
Like Borgen, Spin examines the seats of power and the planets orbiting them, from the press and PR advisors to the police and security agencies. Opening with tense scenes of a suicide bomber targeting the French President as he visits an ailing factory, it examines the machinations behind the political apparatus when a constitutional void is exposed. Even as the President is undergoing surgery, the vultures are circling, taking meetings about how best to profit from the power vacuum he has left behind.
Into this toxic mess steps Simon Kapita (Bruno Wolkowitch), the President’s crack spin doctor and close, personal friend, who left France to pursue a successful career in New York. While being a rather more male, macho affair than its Danish counterpart, Spin is just thing thing to fill that Borgen-shaped hole in your life.
For more on Walter Presents, see our full reviews of the VOD channel’s shows.